Czech Republic holds a feast for the eyes

A feast for the eyes awaits any hiker or biker who struggles up the steep grade to reach a mountain peak in the tiny village of Peklo, Czech Republic.

Peklo is home to one of the scores of scenic overlooks that dot the mountain and cliff-tops throughout the Jizerske Hory mountain range, about 150km north of Prague.

A staircase cut into the mountain’s solid rock leads to a perfect spot for leaning against an iron rail and gazing across a panorama of verdant hills, a wooded valley and stone outcrops.

Peklo is a small dot on the map compared with the region’s more famous lookouts, including many topped with 19th-century viewing towers built by touring associations to entertain visitors on summer hikes or winter ski trips.

But great views are in store whether one prefers the circular brick tower at Kopanina, built in 1894, or the ancient lookout rock at Smrzovka.

Ancient tribal people were the first to appreciate the region’s dramatic lookouts. Later, mountain views were developed as tourist attractions in the decades before leisure-time interests were forever changed by autos and movies.

Attractively designed towers ranging from 30m to 50m in height were built on peaks with wood, stone or brick — and most are still open to tourists. Some were accented by lodges and restaurants.

Because of its proximity to Germany and Poland, the Jizerske Hory region near the city of Jablonec nad Nisou was a popular destination for Victorian-era vacationers searching what is now Czech Republic for a special view.

These days, the lookouts are frequented by mountain bikers, backpackers and cross-country skiers, although most are reachable by car as well.

”There are very few places where you can find so many view-towers, so many natural lookout points, as there are in the Jablonec region,” said Otakar Simm, author of a guide to the region’s scenic attractions.

The area’s most-beloved tower is Cerna Studnice, a stone structure shaped something like a New York City skyscraper popping up from among spruce trees. A crowd of 6 000 attended its dedication 102 years ago.

Finding a promontory with a rocky overlook or view tower is as easy as buying and reading a map of the region. Views are most dramatic when fruit trees are blossoming in May or after one of the snowstorms that frequently occur between December and March. — Sapa-dpa

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